Charles Good on Presentation Skills

The ability to present ideas effectively is crucial in leadership. Whether addressing a small team, a large audience, or key stakeholders, leaders must possess strong presentation skills to inspire, inform, and influence. Here, we explore essential presentation skills every leader needs to master.


All leaders need to know how to keep their anxiety in check when delivering a presentation or making a speech. The most common advice is to take a deep breath and try to calm your nerves. This advice, although well-intentioned, could be more practical. You are already operating in a high arousal state with elevated alertness and a faster pulse; it is tough to calm down on cue when you are in this state. Instead, focus on reframing your anxiety as excitement, another high-arousal state. It is much easier to do now and more effective in keeping your energy level high during your presentation.

Matt Abrahams, best-selling author of Talk Smarter, Think Faster, provides some additional techniques below.

  • Slow down your body movements, especially your hands. Since your speech typically keeps up with your bodily movements, slowing down your body movements will also calm down your speech.
  • You can cool down your body by holding something cold (e.g., a water bottle) in one hand. Cooling yourself down causes you to blush and sweat less.
  • Positive self-talk helps, such as reciting a mantra that quiets your inner critic and redirects your thoughts.

As Matt mentions, we often fail to learn from failure because we view it in a negative light and not as a learning opportunity. He has a great reframe: viewing mistakes as missed takes.


Understanding your audience is the first step in delivering an impactful presentation. Tailoring your message to their needs and interests is crucial. Are you addressing a group of executives, employees, or clients? Each audience requires a different approach.


Customization is crucial. A one-size-fits-all approach seldom suffices in presentations. Tailoring your message ensures it resonates with your audience. This entails utilizing language they comprehend, addressing their concerns, and providing relevant examples.

Effective presentations transcend conveying information; they’re about fostering a connection with the audience. Demonstrate empathy by acknowledging their viewpoints and meeting their needs. This promotes trust and enhances the persuasiveness of your message.


Engaging your audience requires storytelling. However, storytelling is oftenn’t the primary focus for many presenters. Most presenters follow a logical path: they start by opening slideware. Yet presentation programs aren’t inherently storytelling tools; they primarily serve as digital delivery mechanisms. PowerPoint’s default template prompts for a title and text.

Anything that gets your audience to do something with their bodies will increase engagement. Get your audience to raise their hands, watch a video, complete a poll or survey, etc. One of the best ways to increase physical and mental engagement is to get people talking to one another.

Having strong presentation skills is crucial for effective leadership. By taking into account your audience, creating a persuasive message, honing your delivery skills, managing nervousness, and involving your audience, you can master the presentation skills every leader needs. Effective presentations have the power to motivate, educate, and persuade, ultimately leading to success for both you and your organization. Therefore, invest time in refining these skills and observe the growth of your leadership impact.

For more insights and advice on presentation skills, see my Good Leadership interview with Matt Abrahams; Speaking with Confidence: How to Communicate Effectively When Put on the Spot, both PART 1 and PART 2. You might also want to read my previous blog posts on Powerful Storytelling is a Leader’s Secret Weapon, Great Leaders are Great Storytellers, or Communicating with Impact.


Charles Good is the president of The Institute for Management Studies, which provides transformational learning experiences that drive behavioral change and develop exceptional leaders. Charles is an innovative and resourceful leader who specializes in bringing people together to develop creative organizational and talent strategies that enable business results. His areas of expertise include assessing organizational skill gaps and leading the design, creation and delivery of high impact, innovative learning solutions that achieve business goals.

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